Marilyn, From Korea to Connecticut

A recent obituary for a Korea veteran in the Hartford Courant includes a reference to Marilyn’s 1954 visit. (I wonder if he ever bumped into Marilyn after she moved to Connecticut with Arthur Miller in 1956?)

“Gordon Thomas Calano died peacefully in his sleep in Hobe Sound, Florida, on April 9, 2018 …  Gordon was born on July 1, 1929, in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from East Hartford High School in 1947 and from the University of Connecticut in 1951, leaving soon after for Korea, where he served in the army for two years as a war correspondent and earned a Purple Heart. One of his most treasured memories was acting as Marilyn Monroe’s personal escort while she entertained the troops. Following military service, Gordon taught English and history at East Hartford High before launching Calano Furniture … “

Elsewhere in Connecticut, Greenwich Time reports on a new book by local author Matthew Bernard,  Victorian Summer: The Historic Houses of Belle Haven Park, which also has a link to Marilyn, Arthur, and the producer of The Misfits.

Frank Taylor (centre) with the Millers on location for ‘The Misfits’

“The house he grew up in, for instance, was previously owned by Frank Taylor, publisher of Playbill magazine and a Broadway and film producer. Taylor entertained major creative talents at the home, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller…”

Marilyn in Korea: Rare Colour Slides Found in Louisiana

Eight colour slides of Marilyn in Korea were discovered by a veteran’s family in Louisiana over the Easter weekend, as Jim Dresbach writes for DCMilitary.com.

“When Louis Larue passed away in February, he left thousands of photographs he snapped of his family, friends, and time spent as an Army pilot in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea.

Larue took hundreds of pictures during his Korean deployment. Some snapshots documented and captured the aftermath of an anti-aircraft artillery attack on his aircraft, but his lens stumbled upon glamour and greatness in early 1954. That February, Larue captured America’s most famous glamour girl on film.

Marilyn and her friend Jean O’Doul (at left) chat with soldiers in a mess hall

Mike Larue, son of the Monroe photographer, has been busy trying to catch his breath and to piece together the circumstances behind the photos.

‘In all the conversations we had with my dad about him being over there (in Korea), nobody remembers him mentioning anything about seeing Marilyn Monroe,’ Mike said. ‘This came off as a shock.'”

Marilyn Returns to ‘Battleground Korea’

Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War is a deluxe 4-CD box set from Bear Family Records. Among those featured on this ultimate soundtrack to history are artists who performed for US troops, and news broadcasts from the era.

Unfortunately, Marilyn’s performances aren’t included (perhaps full recordings aren’t available), but her 1954 visit is covered in an accompanying hardback book, with nine pages of photos showing Marilyn among her greatest fans.

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Rare Photos of Young Marilyn at Heritage Auctions

Rare photographs showing a young Marilyn, taken from the private collection of Hollywood security guard Aviv Wardimon, will be on offer at the Entertainment Signatures sale at Heritage Auctions, ending on April 15, reports the Daily Mail. (Eagle-eyed fans will notice that the image shown above is very similar to the cover photo of Michelle Morgan’s MM: Private and Undisclosed, given by Marilyn to Bill Pursel.)

“The images show Marilyn posing alongside guard Aviv Wardimon and are believed to have been taken outside the 20th Century Fox studio some time in the late 1940s. Wardimon’s family discovered the images recently and said they had no idea their relative was friends with Monroe, who is shown embracing him in several shots. Wardimon, who later changed his last name to Blackman, emigrated to the US from Israel before working for a time as a security guard. His images are now expected to fetch $1,000 (£700) each at auction.

Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment Memorabilia, said: ‘We have a few lots of never before seen snapshots taken when she is between 21-22 years old. We dated it by her haircut, it is still long, down to her shoulders and a light brown that turns light strawberry blondish in certain lights.’

‘These have never been seen before, she’s standing outside on the back of 20th Century Fox, she’s with a man. It was a mystery to the man’s own family, they know he worked as a security guard at one of the studio lots and had come over from Israel with his wife and children.’

‘Marilyn is with him for most of the shots, they obviously had some sort of a friendship. She’s in three different outfits so it could be from three different days, she must have known him beyond being a passing acquaintance.’

‘There are three lots, I have a feeling he had a massive crush on her, saw her on the lot and had these early shots of her. When the family found them, they said, Oh my gosh, it’s Marilyn Monroe.’

Rare black and white signed photographs where Marilyn Monroe thanks her co-workers in similar notes – ‘It’s a pleasure to work with you’ – are estimated at $7,000 (£5,000) and $4,000 (£2,800.) Publicity shots including an unseen postcard where Marilyn and another female were hired as pin-ups for the 1947 National Postmasters Convention in Los Angeles.

A signed menu from Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s honeymoon in Hawaii in 1954 is estimated to go for $2,000 (£1,400). In her note, she penned ‘The food was wonderful’ before writing her name ‘Marilyn Monroe DiMaggio’. Although her marriage to the New York Yankee’s star nicknamed Joltin’ Joe would end within a year, the menu preserves a precious moment of the couple’s life.

Margaret said: ‘This is when she flew from LA to Hawaii, she was only there for a night and went to a Trader Vic’s restaurant, which was very 50s. She signed the menu with something cute, then Joe signed the next page and Joe’s friend who went on the honeymoon with them. Marilyn was obviously signing it for the waiter or owner, if it was just a fan she wouldn’t have commented on the food.’

Never before seen photographs from Marilyn Monroe’s visit to Korea, shortly after her honeymoon with soldiers and close-ups of her in a spaghetti-strapped dress on stage, are estimated at $2,000 (£1,400).”

UPDATE: Auction results here

Country Star Recalls Marilyn in Korea

Country singer Leroy Van Dyke, whose career spans six decades, has recalled being Marilyn’s opening act during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with Maine Edge.

“During the Korean War, Van Dyke was a special agent in U.S. Army Counterintelligence – a member of the 40th CIC, attached to the 40th infantry division. Assigned at Regimental level on the DMZ on the 38th parallel, Van Dyke says he had a squad tent to himself, and on occasion, he would head in to detachment for meetings accompanied by his guitar.

‘My commanding officer was a major from Kansas City and we got along real well,’ Van Dyke said. ‘He’d say Van, go get your guitar and let’s have a little music. The first time anyone heard The Auctioneer was at one of those meetings. Word quickly began to spread among the troops about the singing special agent.’

‘Later on, the Asst. Regimental Commander – a Lt. Colonel – came into my tent and asked if I would perform for 15 minutes to open up a USO show that was coming through,’ Van Dyke recalled. “’ asked him who else was going to perform on this show and he told me. It was Marilyn Monroe.’

More than a little nervous at the prospect of trying to appease impatient troops awaiting the hottest female star in the world at that moment, Van Dyke recalled his response: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ before adding ‘It worked out very well and I guess I’m the only country act to ever open a show for Marilyn Monroe.'”

Not Forgotten: Marilyn in Korea

Bill Wamke, who was drafted by the US Army in 1952 and was appointed stenographer to the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division, recalls meeting Marilyn during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with the Kokomo Herald.

“‘She got to because our division was not on the line when I got over there, the 7 was on the line. My division was not on the line … Of course there was no danger there, and since it was close to the ceasefire, I got there about a month before. Marilyn Monroe moved around the camp and visited with the troops and stuff, and it was neat to see her.’

Wanke still has the photographs he took of Monroe and said, for one of them, she was kind and patient while he got his camera set to take the photo.”

 

Korea Veteran Takes the Cake With Marilyn

A veteran army cook has spotted himself in a photo with Marilyn in Korea during her 1954 tour, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Jerry Karthauser at top left, plus other photos taken during Marilyn’s visit to Seoul, South Korea

“If an Army cook meets Marilyn Monroe and doesn’t have a photo to prove it, did it really happen?

For 63 years now, Jerry Karthauser has been insisting it’s true. He fed lunch to the stunning starlet when she showed up in Korea to entertain the troops.

His wife, Mary, has heard the tale plenty of times. ‘He had a kiss from her, he cooked for her, and for all these 60-plus years, people were just sort of yeah, yeah, yeah,’ she said.

Well, now the 85-year-old Thiensville man finally has photographic evidence of their meeting, and it came in dramatic style during a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to the war memorials in Washington, D.C., last Friday.

Jerry’s son, Brad of Kansas City, tracked down the photo on the internet where it was hiding in plain sight. He had it framed and placed in the mailbag that each veteran on the Honor Flight receives on the ride home.

Turns out Jerry was embellishing a bit. ‘I always claim I got a kiss on my right cheek, but I think that’s a fable,’ the retired wholesale florist now admits.

Knowing the Honor Flight was coming up, Brad widened his search and found the photo of Jerry, Marilyn and another soldier. They’re all eating cake in the black-and-white pic.

‘She’s looking at me directly, and I’m looking at her,’ Jerry told me.

‘She’s actually flirting with him. It’s really quite a picture,’ Mary said.

Jerry was single at the time, February of 1954, and assigned to headquarters company 2nd Infantry Division near Seoul, South Korea. The mess hall denizens had sent Marilyn a hand-drawn invitation to lunch.

Many photos of that tour exist. Jerry, who grew up in Thiensville, was told the one taken of him would be sent to his hometown newspaper, but he doesn’t think it ever ran around here. Jerry captured a few snapshots of Marilyn during the visit, but he’s not in them because selfies were not a thing yet.

Jerry remembers Marilyn as friendly, accommodating and ‘really beautiful.’

‘She stood outside on a Jeep and signed autographs for a long, long time. It was a cold day. I remember that. She had a flight jacket on,’ he said.

Stunned by receiving the elusive photo on the Honor Flight, Jerry passed it around for others to see. Now, it will have a place of honor at home, and Mary denies she’s the slightest bit jealous when she looks at her husband and Marilyn Monroe making eyes.

‘It’s a nice story because it’s 60-plus years in the making,’ she said.”

UPDATE: In 2016, MM expert Scott Fortner purchased the hand-drawn invitation to Marilyn from the 2nd Infantry Division mentioned in the article. More info here.

Another day, another cake!

Marilyn at Julien’s: Trinkets and Keepsakes

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Among Marilyn’s possessions were many items of sentimental value.  She kept this ballerina paperweight in her New York apartment next to a framed photo of 1920s Broadway star Marilyn Miller, who inspired her own stage name. In a strange twist of fate, she would also become ‘Marilyn Miller’ after her third marriage. She later gave the paperweight to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts, calling it “the other Marilyn.”

49D0AD3E-208B-4C7D-8A6E-BF4B8C120722-17167-00000949DDBC3B1D_tmpThis silver-tone St Christopher pendant was a gift from Natasha Lytess, Marilyn’s drama coach from 1948-54. (St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers.) Marilyn cut ties with Lytess after discovering she was writing a book about their friendship. She later gave the pendant to Ralph Roberts, telling him, “I’ve outgrown Natasha.

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This gold and silver-tone Gemini pendant reflects Marilyn’s close identification with her astrological sign, symbolised by twin faces. “I’m so many people,” she told journalist W.J. Weatherby. “Sometimes I wish I was just me.

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Marilyn was exceedingly generous to her friends, as the story behind this bracelet reveals.

“A rhinestone bracelet owned by Marilyn Monroe and gifted to Vanessa Reis, the sister-in-law to May Reis, Monroe’s personal assistant and secretary. In a letter to the consigner dated November 28, 1994, Ralph Roberts writes, ‘Reference Marilyn robe and bracelet. As best I recall, late one Saturday afternoon Marilyn and I were in the dining area of the Miller 9th floor suite at the Mapes Hotel. She had just changed into a robe, sitting on one of the chairs and I was massaging her back and shoulders. She showed me a bracelet she’d brought to Reno with thought of possibly wearing it as a [undecipherable comment] for Roslyn [Monroe’s character in The Misfits]. Upon discussing it, she and Paula [Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s acting coach and friend] had decided somehow it wouldn’t be appropriate. Just then May Reis entered with Vanessa Reis (the widow of Irving Reis, May’s greatly loved brother and film director). Vanessa had come up from LA for a long weekend visit – there’d been some talk of our going out to some of the casinos to do a bit of gambling. Vanessa told Marilyn how lovely she looked in that robe. Marilyn thanked her + impulsively held out the bracelet, Take this + wear it as a good luck charm. I was wearing it during dance rehearsals for Let’s Make Love, smashed into a prop, so a stone is loosened. I wish I could go with you, but Raffe is getting some Misfits knots out. And I should go over that scene coming up Monday. They left. Marilyn asked me to remind her to have the robe cleaned to give to Vanessa. Whitey, Agnes, May – all of us – knew from experience we couldn’t compliment Marilyn on any personal items or had to be very careful. She’d be compulsive about giving it, or getting a copy – to you.’ Accompanied by a copy of the letter.”

Jack Dempsey, a former world heavyweight champion boxer, wrote to Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees teammate, Jerry Coleman, in 1954. “Have been reading a lot about Marilyn, Joe and yourself, here in the east,” Dempsey remarked. “Best of luck to you and your family, and send Marilyn’s autograph along.

47506260-4B71-4779-B8DB-0A5CDFC4355B-17167-000009531D6A9016_tmpThis small pine-cone Christmas tree, held together with wire and dusted in glitter, was given to Marilyn as a surprise by Joe DiMaggio one year when she had no plans, or decorations. Christmas can be a lonely time, and Joe made sure to bring some cheer.

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This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.

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Author Truman Capote sent Marilyn a personally inscribed 1959 album of himself reading ‘A Christmas Memory‘ (an excerpt from his famous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

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Marilyn owned a leather-bound, monogrammed copy of Esquire magazine’s July 1953 issue, featuring an article about herself titled “The ‘Altogether’ Girl.”

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Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea to entertain American troops was one of her happiest memories. This photo shows her with the band and is accompanied by a letter from George Sweers of the St Petersburg Times, sent after their chance reunion when Marilyn took a short break in Florida in 1961.

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This endearing note accompanied a gift from Marilyn to Paula Strasberg, who replaced Natasha Lytess as her acting coach in 1956: “Dear Paula, I’m glad you were born because you are needed. Your warmth is both astonishing and welcomed. Love & Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”

In April 1955, novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Marilyn, asking her to sign a photo for his young nephew.

“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. … I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Television host Edward K. Murrow sent Marilyn a Columbia Records album, featuring excerpts from speeches by Sir Winston Churchill, in November 1955. She had been a guest on Murrow’s CBS show, Person to Person, a few months previously.

 

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Marilyn’s custom-bound edition of Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays included a personal dedication. Miller had drafted a fuller tribute, but it was nixed – possibly because his first divorce was not final when it was published.

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“This book is being written out of the courage, the widened view of life, the awareness of love and beauty, given to me by my love, my wife-to-be, my Marilyn. I bless her for this gift, and I write it so that she may have from me the only unique thing I know how to make. I bless her, I owe her the discovery of my soul.”

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Costume designer Donfeld sent Marilyn this handmade birthday card one year, together with a small note that read, “M – I hope this finds you well and happy – My thoughts are with you now – Love, Feld.”

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This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.

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This souvenir brochure for the small town of Bement, Illinois was signed by Marilyn when she made a surprise appearance in 1955, during a festival marking the centennial of an historic visit by her idol, Abraham Lincoln.

Comedian Ernie Kovacs sent this rather cheeky letter to Marilyn in 1961. He would die in a tragic car crash in January 1962, aged 43, followed by Marilyn in August.

“The letter, addressed to ‘Marilyneleh’, invites Monroe to a get together at his home on June 15, giving the dress code as ‘… slacks or if you want to be chic, just spray yourself with aluminum paint or something.’ He continues, ‘I’ll try to find someone more mature than Carl Sandburg for you. … if Frank is in town, will be asking him. … don’t be a miserable shit and say you can’t come. … Look as ugly as possible cause the neighbors talk if attractive women come into my study.’ He signs the letter in black pen ‘Ernie’ and adds a note at the bottom: ‘If you don’t have any aluminum paint, you could back into a mud pack and come as an adobe hut. … we’ll make it a costume party. … Kovacs.'”

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Always gracious to her fans, Marilyn gave child actress Linda Bennett a magazine clipping with the inscription, “I saw you in The Seven Little Foys. Great – Marilyn Monroe.” She also signed this photograph, “Dear Linda, I wish you luck with your acting. Love and kisses, Marilyn Monroe Miller.”

Marilyn’s Korea Dress On Show in Bendigo

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One of Marilyn’s most iconic dresses, rarely seen today, is currently on display as part of Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, the new exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery, as Scott Fortner reports for his MM Collection blog.

“Many of the items on exhibit have been seen around the world, including the US, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, Spain and Prague.  However, one item in particular hasn’t been seen by the public in over 20 years, and that’s the striking purple gown that Marilyn Monroe wore throughout her Korean USO tour in 1954 when she performed for US troops stationed there.  Marilyn is often quoted as saying performing in Korea was one of the highlights of her life.

The dress and matching bolero jacket, owned by a private collector in Australia, is quite simply, stunning.  It sparkles in the light today exactly as it must have in February of ’54 as Marilyn sang ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ in front of thousands of US servicemen in freezing temperatures.  It was an absolute thrill to see this treasure live and in person.  And for those who may doubt it’s the actual Korea USO dress, I’ve done a bit of analysis, and I’m convinced it’s THE dress Marilyn owned and wore throughout her USO tour.  Many have speculated the whereabouts of this dress, yet those of us ‘in the know’ have known it was in the hands of a private collector in Australia.  His generosity in sharing the gown with the public is greatly appreciated.”